Nigerian put in mental hospital for atheism

June 25, 2014 • 12:54 pm

While I was watching Nigeria play Argentina (a superb game), another drama was unfolding in that African nation. The Independent and the BBC report that perfectly healthy man has been confined in a Nigerian mental institution simply because he claimed that he doesn’t believe in God.

The Independent notes:

Mubarak Bala is being held against his will and forcibly medicated at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, where he has been kept since 13 June, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) reports.

The chemical engineering graduate is allegedly being held on the grounds of a “personality change” because he declared himself an atheist despite being raised in a Muslim family in Kano, which is a mainly Muslim state.

The organisation says that when Mr Bala told his family he did not believe in God, they took him to a doctor and asked if he was mentally ill.

When this doctor found him to be fit and well, the family are then believed to have taken him to a second doctor who claimed he was suffering with a personality disorder. The family allegedly told this doctor he also made delusional claims that he was a “governor” and other “trivial lies”.

Here’s the value of social media: using a smartphone smuggled into the institution, Bala sent text messages and tw**ts alerting people what had been done to him:

In one of the emails, he wrote:“And the biggest evidence of my mental illness was large blasphemies and denial of ‘history’ of Adam, and apostasy, to which the doctor said was a personality change, that everyone needs a God, that even in Japan they have a God. . . “And my brother added that all the atheists I see have had mental illness at some point in their life.”

The IHEU is pressuring authorities to release Bala immediately.

While there appears to be no national law against apostasy in Nigeria, some parts of northern Nigeria use sharia law, under which apostasy is punishable by death. Kano, where Bala is confined, is in northern Nigeria. That doesn’t mean he’ll die, of course, but does suggest that the sentiments against abandoning Islam run high in that area.

And really, if you’re going to confine people for delusions, it’s the faithful who should be locked up. In this world, it’s truly the inmates who are running the asylum.

Mubarak Bala

h/t: Many readers who brought this to my attention

29 thoughts on “Nigerian put in mental hospital for atheism

    1. My bro just escaped from there weeks ago, and is enjoying life once again. No offense to any Nigerians reading this… and my bro has been to some of the worst places on the planet… but… urban Nigeria absolutely takes the cake for the worst of the worst armpits in the world, with the rural parts not so far behind in armpittishness. Absolutely unending insanity with no end in sight, the bulk of it fueled by ignorance induced by magical thinking of all kinds.

  1. “If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.”

  2. “In this world, it’s truly the inmates who are running the asylum.”

    I’ve been repeating this mantra for years. There’s no doubt whatsoever that this statement is the absolute gospel truth. People in many parts of this planet are bat-shit nuts. I think they may have all been infected w/ a parasite affecting the functioning of their brainial matter, just like the proverbial ant that keeps creeping up to the top of a blade of grass only to fall off and try again.

    Very sad.

      1. Thanks. I appreciate that. I was trying my best to recall the binomial but my branial matter just gave out. I’m writin’ down for posterity.

        There’s a lot of discussion on this on-line. I was surprised to get 570K hits.

        Wiki has a great expose’ on it:

        Here’s another good one:

        The last piece really gave me concern; I have three cats, one which lived in the wilds for at least a year before I rescued her silly ass and another roamed free for a least a couple of months.

        Thanks again. Muy appreciamente’.

      2. I’m leaning towards a deliberate misspelling of gondii, but I can’t be certain.

        Toxoplamosis godii makes a pretty good description of the meme that is religion.

        1. But, but – you can’t catch religion from cats!

          (BTW, it’s Toxoplasma gondii, and gives you toxoplasmosis. But godii is funny)

        2. Yes, godii is intentional. Back when Prof. CC first posted info on the cat parasite, I thought of godii as the perfect description of how religion infects people. Not to brag, but it’s my joke and I’m claiming credit for it!

  3. Thank you VERY much for running this story. Mubarak has been in our twitter community for awhile now, and perhaps become even MORE outspoken about his secular views with our encouragement and support.

    His mind is free…now we just need to free his body.

    We’ve managed to get the word out there. Quite impressive what a small group of people can do when we put our minds to it!

    Between this site, Harris, Krauss, Dawkins and ALL OF YOU… we can help this brave man!

  4. Although I don’t think atheists in the US are likely to be in this particular danger, it’s fairly common for atheists who mention their atheism to be met with concerns about what might have happened to them. Did a church do something unfair? Did a parent die unexpectedly? Was there some other life trauma which made them lose hope or get angry with God?

    They’re not necessarily being snarky. This is the sort of story they’re told in the churches and (too often) in the media. Atheists are angry and bitter because they’ve been hurt. Love and compassion will eventually turn them around and they’ll find the God they always needed.

    I suspect the treatment-for-atheism scenario might apply to some minors in the US. I once heard a story from a man who as a teenager went up before a judge and was reassigned from his father’s custody to his mother’s primarily because he’d become an atheist. The deeply devout mother promised to send him to Catholic school. He got along well with his agnostic dad; his subsequent life with mom was painful. Catholic Boy’s School did not “cure” his atheism.

    1. A recent episode of the podcast “Thank God I’m Atheist” read a letter from a young man who came out to his parents as an atheist.

      He said they were very good, calm, patient, understanding. Then a week or so later he found himself shipped off to a religious boys school.

      If it had been me back when I was young I probably would have gotten myself expelled rather quickly. But there are now places much worse then religious boys schools.

      Various camps, ‘schools’, reformatories and the like, virtual re-education camps or prisons for children. The difference is the child can be enrolled with just the parents signature, no judge, no conviction or court ruling is required.

      Many of these places moved out of the US when reports of abuse, torture and deaths started appearing. Many went to countries with no oversight and few regulations.

    2. Did a church do something unfair?Yes. You’d expect anything different? Did a parent die unexpectedly?No. Everyone knows that all parents, and non-parents, are going to die. Some people try to avoid facing the fact though.

      Love and compassion will eventually turn them around and they’ll find the God they always needed.

      In Britain, we often phrase that one around an aphorism attributed to one Captain Bligh, of ‘Bounty’ fame : “The floggings will continue until moral improves.”

  5. You got to wonder if there are as many theists globally as claimed. How many would take the chance this courageous atheist took?

    Personality disorder (especially cluster B) is characterised by mental and emotional rigidity, where the same pattern of behavior continues as if being done in a social vacuum. Since the personality disordered have no idea they are not perfect, they have no motivation to change their interface with others even though their private relationships are chaotic for the most part. However, some can compartmentalise to the extent of not only having successful careers but highly prestigious ones. Their ability to charm is legendary!

    The second doctor’s diagnosis is not even wrong and is a shameful use of his medical standing. Whistle blowers and intellectually/emotionally honest people have been historically and presently crushed often in this way, by getting slapped with a freedom-robbing, convenient-for-the-abusers diagnosis as a ‘troublemaker’.

  6. So if you think you’re god, you’re put into a mental hospital, and if you think god doesn’t exist, you’re put into a mental hospital. When does the day come when believing in a god becomes a reason for putting you in a mental ward?

    1. Had there been a Lunatic Asylum in the suburbs of Jerusalem, Jesus Christ would infallibly have been shut up in it at the outset of his public career. That interview with Satan on a pinnacle of the Temple would alone have damned him, and everything that happened after could have confirmed the diagnosis. The whole religious complexion of the modern world is due to the absence from Jerusalem of a Lunatic Asylum.”
      ~Havlock Ellis

      1. The flaw in Ellis’s analysis is of course that incarceration in the putative Jerusalem lunatic asylum would have been temporary. Come the next appropriate occasion (and in the alleged time of the alleged “historical Jesus”, such occasions were becoming decidedly more frequent) and it would have been into the arena (the sandy, sandy arena) as a lunch time snack for a lion. If he wasn’t lucky enough to be training material for a retribution ass. Before becoming lion compote.
        I’m trying to remember now if “fun boy” Caligula was in Judeah in the alleged (etc) time, or if he’d roamed off to Rome?

    2. We are sort of there already, see my #11 comment. It depends on the context. E.g. religion has a “pass out of jail” card*, while similar new stuff is arguably on the diagnosis list.

      *It may well be a legit card, eg religious individuals may be sane while the society isn’t in as much as individual diagnosis applies. (Likely it doesn’t.)

      It is just a humorous, or not, situation. In this guy’s case it isn’t as funny…

      1. Oy! Need more coffee… I meant that individual diagnose criteria doesn’t automatically apply to society. Especially for mental diseases. (Implies having a brain. =D)

        What is it called when people behaves like having psychological dysfunction but is proclaimed as functional as possibly can be due to the current environment?

        Oh, right. The Asylum.

  7. Awful! Human rights and freedoms botched as well.

    The irony, to see a shade of gray in the dark, is that DSM-5 puts magical agency belief as part of diagnostics on mental diseases. [As I have commented on here before, with reference.] The society custom is the one differentiation.

    E.g. if we hadn’t had organized magic agency belief already, such individuals could be among those treated like this poor non-diagnostic guy is.

    1. Not “would love to” but “are doing”.
      Though I gather that some organizations (in the USA) who provide such incarceration are facing legal challenge.
      Someone upthread suggested that this practice is being “offshored”. Kind of ironic, considering the CIA’s recent spate of offshoring it’s torture and false imprisonment operations.
      I haven’t seen an episode of Family Dad (or am I thinking of American Guy?) for a while – isn’t there one where the CIA Dad offshores straightening out the fat teenage boy to … or am I just channelling script conferences ad nauseam?

  8. Here’s a purely speculative thought that occurred to me.

    From the perspective of his relatives, maybe they do, in their way, care about him. This fellow is making statements that can easily get himself killed in that area … getting him declared insane and not responsible for his statements, as well as being put into care, could quite possibly save his life.

    Of course that could be totally wrong, but if it were true, the family couldn’t dare admit it.

    1. getting him declared insane and not responsible for his statements, as well as being put into care, could quite possibly save his life

      He’s being hospitalized. In Nigeria. I know people who work there who’d shoot their worst enemies in preference to doing that sort of thing to them.
      OK – possibly there are good hospitals in Nigeria. I don’t know of any foreign company that works there which would consider using any Nigerian hospital as more than a stabilisation stage in a medical evacuation plan.

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